Elementary Curriculum Update

September 2016

Penn Class - 1st and 2nd Grades

The Penn Class has had a very successful start to the school year! During the first week of school, we spent time learning about one another through a variety of activities. Each student brought in three items to share with the class and explain why they were important to him/her. We filled out certificates with information about our interests, titled My First Week of (second/first) grade… and we had fun playing A Strong Wind Blows.


After reading The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, the students shared their hopes and dreams for the school year. We then discussed what needed to happen in our classroom for everyone’s hopes and dreams to be accomplished, thus creating our Penn Class Boundaries. Some of the read alouds this month consisted of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, How Full is your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, Sarah’s Questions by Harriet Ziefert, and It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr; these were followed up with discussions and/or activities about kindness, friendship, and learning.


With each Word of the Week this month, we related it to our classroom. Below are the words and how we connected each to our class:

Community—discussed and practiced building community within our classroom and school

Expect—discussed classroom expectations

Stamina—began building our read-to-self stamina

Perseverance—reflected on our strengths and things we find challenging that we will need to persevere through


Writing Workshop was kicked off with our very first book project. After reading Pictures from our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins the students began drawing pictures from their summer and followed up with adding the words for each picture to make it into a story. Writing Workshop consists of modeling with reference to a mentor text, active work time (writing/illustrating), and sharing. The students began writing in their Friday school/home journals this month too. Each week, they will write a letter home about their week at school. During handwriting this month, the students practiced lower case c, a, t, d, s, and f.


We started the Reading Studio routine and will begin focusing on strategies next month. Reading studio, similar to Writing Workshop, consists of a crafting session (read aloud and modeling), independent reading, with-teacher conferences, and a sharing time. The students are practicing preparing their book bins each week with a variety of texts that they enjoy. As the year progresses, we will add requirements for the books they select. Independent reading time will grow in time throughout the year. The students will gradually build their read-to-self stamina and track the time on a class chart! We will celebrate each benchmark goal as we go through the year!


During Work Together Wednesday we played a game called web ball in which the students needed to communicate with one another and create a path by passing the ball to each person without dropping it. If the ball dropped, we started over. We worked on encouraging words (pick-ups) during this game, too. The students also participated in a newspaper challenge, where they were in small groups with the challenge of building the tallest freestanding tower out of newspaper and tape. They had to work on making a plan, executing the plan, evaluating and improving. Compromise, communication, and cooperation were all skills practiced during this challenge. On September 21, International Day of Peace, the students worked in small groups taking photos of peaceful action poses. They will create a Peace Day collage from the photos.


In first grade math, the children spent time learning the routine of guided math centers. They worked on transitions as well as how to work independently. Number writing, tally marks, moving up and back on a number line and skip counting were skills practiced. They were able to explore with math manipulatives such as pattern blocks, unifix cubes, and geoboards. They learned three games—Monster Squeeze, Bunny Hop, and Top It.


Second graders are enjoying having math in the science classroom. We have been reviewing number patterns and sequences with number grids, calendars, and number lines. Everyone is well on their way to writing numbers 0-1000 on a number grid and using the number grid as a tool for counting and adding by tens and by ones. Our work with coins and bills has involved playing several different money exchange games and activities. We use place value blocks to reinforce number concepts and adding and subtracting with regrouping. Activities you can do anytime at home to strengthen your child’s math skills include counting the total value of a handful of coins, telling time, making up equivalent names for numbers, practicing addition and subtraction math facts, and comparing number amounts.

Fox Class - 3rd and 4th Grades

During Reading Studio, we began the year learning about the strategy of visualization. As a model, I used the mentor texts Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and I Dance in My Red Pajamas by Edith Hurd. We talked about making movies in your head as you listen to a story or as you read. Children read their individual books, identified a “movie” they saw, and then sketched it in their reading journals. Students are enjoying listening to stories on the iPads as well as reading their individual books and magazines. We read various articles of current events from the website, Newsela. We have read about a new octopus that was discovered and has ears like Dumbo, the new African American Museum in Washington, and about an eight year old homeless boy who started a business of selling soaps.


In Language Arts, students have been writing personal narratives. Some narratives were about summer adventures, vacations, pets, etc. Many children were inspired to write an injury story after one of our classmates came to school with a cast on his arm. The children have been using the writing process of brainstorming, writing, revising, editing, and publishing. To connect with reading, they identified a place in their story where they could add more detail so the reader is able to “see the movie” the author intends.


For Spelling instruction, students learn rules and conventions and then sort groups of words according to the rule. We use the program PAF for cursive and printing. Students practice, practice, practice writing their letters on the Smart Board and in playing games like Tic-Tac-Toe


We have begun our daily Math Message and whiteboard activity routine. We have learned about number sequences, number grids, the Student Reference Book, various math tools and graphing data on a bar graph. We have learned some math games to practice our math facts and we have begun working in the Problem Solving Series. We made a bar graph of how many letters there are in our first names and our favorite ice cream. Then we found the minimum, maximum, range, median, and mode of the data.


In Science we began the year with a study of chemistry. We started by trying to figure out what a liquid is. We learned about viscosity by arranging various liquids according to how thin or thick they were. The students not only had fun figuring out the task, but they enjoyed trying to guess what the liquid was. Next, we learned about inertia and played “kerplunk.” The experiment consisted of a cup, an index card (which sits on top of the cup) and a nickel (which sits on top of the index card). When students flicked the index card, the nickel landed in the cup. The best part of the experiments was observing the results and trying to figure out the WHY. We have many more experiments planned for the near future.

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In Social Studies we began the year with a study of the election process. I am reading the book The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman to the class. Through reading the story they have learned the vocabulary associated with an election; identifying issues, writing speeches, campaigning, raising campaign funds, choosing a running mate, media coverage, etc. We are preparing for a mock election in November.



We began the year by reviewing the Quaker testimonies. We talked about what our classroom community needs in order to work well together. We read The Peace Book by Todd Parr and each child shared how they could help make the classroom peaceful. They shared ideas like help a friend if they don’t know a word, be kind, hold the door, and ask them if they are okay if they get hurt.